More young people severely ill with virus

More younger people are falling severely ill with coronavirus, the World Health Organisation says, as the number of deaths passes 50,000 globally.

The international health body says individuals in their 30s, 40s and 50s are being admitted to intensive care with the disease and dying, despite having no underlying health issues.

However, experts said the majority of people who experience severe illness still tend to be older and with other health problems.

Executive director of WHO’s emergencies program Mike Ryan said one in six COVID-19 deaths in Korea were people under the age of 60.

And over the past six weeks in Italy, at least 10 to 15 per cent of people in intensive care units with the disease were under 50, he told a press conference in Geneva on Friday.

“It’s not that anything has changed,” Dr Ryan said.

“It’s that we collectively have been living in a world where we have tried to convince ourselves that this disease is mild and more severe in older people.

“But I think the evidence has been there all along,” he said.

“There is a spectrum of severity.”

WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead Dr Maria Van Kerkhove said there were still many unknowns about why young people were dying.

“We are seeing more and more younger individuals who are experiencing severe disease,” she said.

“I should say, overall, most of the people who are experiencing severe disease and ending up in ICU are people of older age, and are people who have underlying conditions.

“But what we are seeing in some countries, individuals who are in their 30s, 40s and 50s who are in ICUs and have died.”

She said the WHO needs to better understand why young people are dying from the infection, adding “there are still many unknowns at this present time”.

The International Monetary Fund’s managing director told the press conference the world’s economy had come to a standstill due to the pandemic.

Kristalina Georgieva described the situation as “humanity’s darkest hour” and said the world was in a recession more severe than the 2008 financial crisis.

“This is a crisis like no other, never in the history of the IMF have we witnessed the world economy coming to a standstill,” she said.

“We are now in recession. It is way worse than the global financial crisis. It is a crisis that requires all of us to come together.”

There have now been more than one million confirmed cases of coronavirus across the world, the WHO said.

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